salads, sides

vinegary carrot ribbon salad with sesame and cilantro.

vinegary carrot ribbon salad with sesame and cilantro. | a periodic table

I am not a lover of carrots. The possible result of decades of limp carrot coins and five hundred too many vegetable trays, I’m just not a huge fan. They seem to lack something: you expect something more from a bright orange vegetable than their often bland, distantly soapy flavor. Roasting them in recent years adds something I like, but still doesn’t push them into “yeah, I want that right now” territory.

As it turns out, all carrots need is vinegar and a little sweetness to turn them into an irresistible treat. I learned this about a year ago during recipe development for my first Feast Eats recipe series (the tailgate-centric one) when I made Quick-Pickled Vegetables to throw in tacos. They were so fantastic that my fridge hasn’t been without a batch or two of them since, and we use them on burgers, tacos, salads, and all sorts of other things. If you like a sour add to things, I suggest you make them right now using my super easy recipe which lives right over here.

vinegary carrot ribbon salad with sesame and cilantro. | a periodic table

I haven’t actively searched for another pickle-y carrot things since – no need, really – but then I happened upon this gem out of The New Persian Kitchen book I’ve been obsessing over lately. Just like the watermelon cucumber salad, it’s minutes from prep to table and it’s delightfully crisp and cool. There’s an active sourness to id that grabs you, but it’s mellowed by a hit of honey; the toasted sesame and cilantro smack you right in the taste buds, and the whole thing is brilliantly satisfying. I’d eat this in the dead of winter because it’s just so bright, but in the summer? Chilled perfection on a plate next to anything you want to grill up. I love it with all my heart.

vinegary carrot ribbon salad with sesame and cilantro. | a periodic table

Adapted from The New Persian Kitchen by Louisa Shafia. I reduced the sesame seeds on this one: the book calls for an entire 1/2 cup and wow, is that a ton of sesame for the quantity of carrots we’re working with here, in my opinion.

Vinegary Carrot Ribbon Salad with Sesame + Cilantro

Serves | 4 to 6 |

  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds (black or white; i do a half and half for drama)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp honey (to taste, really: if you want a little more, go for it)
  • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp chili flake
  • kosher salt
  • 2 lbs organic carrots, scrubbed and peeled with a standard vegetable peeler into thin ribbons (or use your mandoline, Braveheart, but there’s no need to here)
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, firmly packed

Add sesame seeds to a cold stainless steel skillet and turn heat to medium. Toast seeds, stirring constantly and flipping seeds until they are evenly toasted and golden; transfer to plate to cool to room temperature.

In a small bowl (or glass jar – an 8 oz jam or canning jar will do nicely here), add garlic, both vinegars, honey, sesame oil, chili flakes, and 1 tsp kosher salt; whisk to blend or screw on lid and shake, shake shake.

In a large bowl, toss carrot ribbons with dressing: a little goes a long way here, so add it and don’t worry about it. Add as much cilantro as you’d like, toss, check seasoning, add more cilantro if you feel like it. Serve immediately garnished with a bit more cilantro. Boom, delicious.

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  • Reply John/Kitchen Riffs July 21, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    Really. Good. Stuff. This looks like an outstanding recipe — just love the mix of flavors. And of course this would be cooling, exactly what we need right now. Thanks!

    • Reply shannon July 30, 2016 at 6:09 am

      Thank you so much, John! I love the ease of it, and the flavor mix tastes way more complex than you’d think with so few ingredients (and so few minutes of prep time!) It’s a keeper in the cold salad department, for sure. Happy you liked it!

  • Reply Abbe@This is How I Cook July 21, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    Drama is the most important part of the recipe. I’m with you…carrots can be so good and so very bad. Thanks goodness for the new modern carrot. I adore slow roasted where they get golden and crispy and sweet. And I know I’ll adore this version also! Can’t wait to try it Shannon!

    • Reply shannon July 30, 2016 at 6:08 am

      Thanks Abbe! Sometimes i get all eye-rolly with modern takes on things (because really, some “old-fashioned” vegetable preps will always remain superior) but for me, this one is a winner. And if it’s a major holiday and roasted carrots are around – and they are, courtesy of me most of the time – i won’t kick them off my plate, either. 🙂

  • Reply elizabeth July 22, 2016 at 6:42 am

    I’m with you on carrots normally, but M did pickle some yesterday that were pretty good. For me it’s also a texture thing–so much to chew through!–that this way might be the better way to go about it if they are thin, wispy, pickled ribbons.

    • Reply shannon July 30, 2016 at 6:06 am

      Pickling makes a huge difference for those of us who tend to be indifferent to carrots. I agree with the texture thing, also – they can be like chewing on wood when raw, and mushy when (over)cooked – and pickling tends to leave them less wood-like but still snappy, which I like. the cut definitely matters, which is why I’d say matchsticks or ribbons are the only way to go.

  • Reply Jennie @onesweetmess August 8, 2016 at 6:59 am

    My very favorite veggies are of the pickled variety. I especially love the sweet, salty, acidic combination. This salad is stunning. As you know, I’m kind of addicted to veggie ribbons these days.

  • Reply Lincoln Reos August 29, 2016 at 11:53 am

    Yum! I love carrots. I have actually made carrot ribbons into a mock-pasta with zucchini before Love that presentation. I will definitely try this salad. Delicious! I made this several times since you posted it. It s now one of my go-to veggies sides, along with things like cucumber and tomato salad.

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